Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, February 4, 2005

FireFox Speed Boost: Tweak Tips For High-Bandwidth Internet Users

"After you get past the beginner stage with Firefox, try this "power-user" trick to make it download pages faster by allowing multiple connections so it can download more than one file at a time.

Photo credit: Thomas Bush

It's only useful for broadband users, so if you're still on dial-up you can just skip this one for now."



What follows on this ForeverGeek, "Nerds-Are-For-Dorks" forum post is an interesting series of mostly highly relevant comments on a Mozilla Firefox speed tweaking tip that has been rapidly propagating on the web during the last few weeks. When applied as instructed, the suggested changes to your Firefox configuration file will result in a considerable speed boost on high-bandwidth Internet connections.

Note that the Forever Geek thread is not the original source of the tip, but the comment thread with all its helpful pointers and explanations definitely makes it worth reading.

Now, what is this speed tweaking tip about? For a rather technical explanation go to Mozilla's own Pipelining FAQ, make sure you understand the intricacies of editing your Firefox configuration files (about:config) or keep reading here for a more simple explanation.

The following simplifying analogy may be appropriate, comparing two scenarios:

Scenario one: imagine your doctor gives you separate prescriptions for three different medicines. You go to the local pharmacy and give the first prescription note to the pharmacist. While preparing your medicine, waiting for the medicine label and the invoice to print, the pharmacist has no opportunity to have a look at the second prescription and anticipate what it takes to prepare it. Only after you receive the first medicine, you hand over the second prescription. Again you wait until you get that second medicine, before you finally give the third prescription. Although of course an over-simplification of the technological background processes, this trivial example resembles to a great extent what would happen when a traditional web server would handle multiple requests from a non-pipelining browser to fetch data for display on a web page.
Now, the second scenario is a more efficient one. Continuing the analogy of visiting your pharmacy with three prescriptions: you hand over all three prescriptions to the pharmacist. The pharmacist prepares your medicines, uses intermittent waiting times to get started on the next prescription and then hands all three medicines over back to you when he/she is done. This is exactly what a web server does that is aware of HTTP pipelining. Pages load considerably faster because the browser is capable of handling multiple, subsequent requests and because the browser is capable of processing multiple, subsequent responses.

These are the full instructions, most probably originally put together by someone using the nick name KoRn:

"Here's something for broadband people that will really speed Firefox up:

  1. Type "about:config" into the address bar and hit return. Scroll down and look for the following entries:


    Normally the browser will make one request to a web page at a time. When you enable pipelining it will make several at once, which really speeds up page loading.

  2. Alter the entries as follows:

    Set "network.http.pipelining" to "true"

    Set "network.http.proxy.pipelining" to "true"

    Set "network.http.pipelining.maxrequests" to some number like 30. This means it will make 30 requests at once.

  3. Lastly right-click anywhere and select New-> Integer. Name it "nglayout.initialpaint.delay" and set its value to "0". This value is the amount of time the browser waits before it acts on information it receives.

    If you're using a broadband connection you'll load pages MUCH faster now!

  4. "

(Reprinted from the article How To Speed Up Firefox (Helpful Vanity) by KoRn (December 12, 2004)

All people who tried this tweak gained 150-250% speed improvement--as far as I was able to deduct from the numerous forums spreading this tip.

Suggested Reading

Reference: ForeverGeek [ Read more ]
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posted by Marjolein Hoekstra on Friday, February 4 2005, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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